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Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) lawyer Alma Puncia (left) discusses her findings during the surveillance exercise conducted in a local shopping mall. She stated that the practical application approach of the training was very helpful especially in dealing with sensitive issues on morality and corruption which requires innovative and discreet investigation skills.
With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the Philippine Judicial Academy conducted a judicial investigation training.
The three-day training in Tagaytay, which focused on background investigation, surveillance, interrogation and report-drafting, was attended by 50 court officers. Judges, law professors, a forensic psychiatrist and police academy trainers led the training, which is part of the nationwide program on strengthening the integrity of the Philippine judiciary. The program intends to remedy the institutional weaknesses identified by the Supreme Court’s 2008 Integrity Development Review.
“The fight against judicial corruption begins with an acknowledgement that a problem exists,” said Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, indicating that the court has imposed disciplinary measures against erring court employees, including clerks, court attorneys, judges and justices. Between 1986 and 2009, 137 lower court judges and 314 court personnel have been dismissed from service for grave offenses, including undue delay in rendering decisions, gross ignorance of the law and stark inefficiency in the performance of official functions. Marquez stressed the need to prudently investigate and evaluate court personnel to ensure acceptable judicial conduct.
Public surveys constantly rank the judiciary as one of the most trustworthy institutions of the Philippine government. However, investigators in the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) face several challenges. Formal procedures on receiving complaints are confusing, and complaints are often abused by lawyers as a litigation tactic. OCA staff attorneys lack resources and formal training to conduct thorough investigations, making it very difficult to build strong cases.
The training employed case studies and addressed practical concerns through group exercises.
“These skills will definitely come in handy,” said Eduard Tolentino, an OCA lawyer. He said that the behavioral observation and surveillance skills gained “will help us sort out the truth.”
Attorney Alma Puncia of the OCA said, “The practical application approach of the training was very helpful because it allowed us to learn new concepts, particularly on surveillance and lie detection, and apply them through simulated situations.”
The training also covered laws and policies, including judicial corruption and immorality, the disciplinary system and its weaknesses, evidence collection, interrogation, administering a judicial corruption case and the preparation of investigative reports. At the end of the training, participants wrote and presented investigative reports before a panel of peers.
“These trainings helped me understand the context of all the notes, interrogations and field reports I receive from my colleagues,” said Attorney Jen De Los Santos-Para, who compiles cases at OCA, “It was a great program that really made me listen.”
To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.